Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tiny Steps

A common sight on the streets of Tokyo is a man, perhaps in his late seventies, shuffling along the sidewalk, taking steps of no more than three or four centimeters at a time, carefully supporting himself first by a bit of wall, then a pole, then a guardrail.  They move with an almost unreal slowness as everyone else on the sidewalk streams around them.

Another common sight is women, also in their late seventies or early eighties, bent nearly double by osteoporosis and hanging onto a walker or grocery cart as if to a chariot speeding out of control as they slowly totter down the street.

These are people old enough to have suffered two abuses.  Their health can't have been helped by childhoods lived during the postwar years of near-starvation.  And their society has changed beneath their feet from one in which social standards still provided some protection for the elderly (if not the more elusive respect that Orientalism imagines) to one seeking to replace familial trust with indequate state support.

No comments: